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Let’s start with a mythical creature – a couch potato or that other person who wants to spend more time in the coffee shop and wine bar or she who insists on driving 200 yards to pick up the little darlings from school.

How should s/he start taking the first exercise since school days?

First and foremost exercise should be fun and not punishment. That way your mind and body will get the most out of it and, equally important, motivation will build up encouraging you to keep the practice going.

So let’s look at a few activities that might appeal to someone not use to taking much exercise.
They need to be activities which can be taken up easily without having to spend months learning techniques before you can get going.

Walk – Don’t Run

For someone who has taken little exercise in the past, never NEVER start with running or jogging. It will be too hard. Hard on the legs, the knees and the body in general – and your lungs will be burning in no time.
Start with walking. A little at first then increase it in distance and pace. Power walking is simply fast walking, taking quick steps and swinging the arms, without breaking into a jog. Two minutes a day might be all you can manage at first and that can be fine. There should be no feeling guilty that it’s inadequate.
The trick is, it must be satisfying; it should not get boring or become a chore.

Now for a few of the more accessible activities which aren’t too difficult to get involved in.

Walking can be expanded into joining a local walking group. There’ll be like-minded company, trips into the country, hills and fresh air.

Swimming is good. Many people who go swimming do a very casual breast stroke, which is a bit like a slow walk and has limited benefit. A certain amount of effort is necessary here. If there’s a clock at the end of the pool, time yourself over two lengths and see if you can beat your personal best. Never look up the world record times. Those swimmers are like something from another planet and will always be three or five times faster than normal people.

Many pools have classes of aerobics in water. There’ll be an instructor and music and it involves movements against the resistance of the water. They can be good – cheerful, energetic and sociable.

Cycling is a safe way to start taking exercise. Pulled muscles and strains are rare in cycling. There’s no need to spend thousands on one of the best machines – a more basic bike will do as a start. With cycling like walking and swimming, you can go at your own pace and increase your effort as you get fitter. If you come across a steep hill, don’t be shy about stopping, resting and getting your breath back before proceeding or even walking up an extremely steep section.

Something to do at home is get a hula hoop. For a complete beginner, a weighted hoop is a bit easier and then graduate to a standard hoop. It’s good for the waist and hips as it burns off the calories. It can also become a party trick because many people can’t do it at all. There is even a hula hoop world championship.

Local gyms usually have facilities for badminton and table tennis. They give exercise for the whole body and beginners can have a successful game against other beginners, without a big learning curve before they start. Being completely new to the sport should not put you off.

Various forms of dancing have many benefits – fitness, fun and social. Ballroom dancing is for all ages with some dances going at a modest pace and others being much more lively. Salsa can be pretty energetic.
Zumba is more of a dance fitness programme involving lively music with a strong South American influence. Zumba classes are graded for ability and age so there is something suitable for everybody.

Gardening should not be overlooked; such a popular activity for many people. It can be hard work and energetic, using a number of muscle groups.

For someone who is overweight and not use to exercise, it’s best to avoid pumping iron in a gym. It can put a strain on the heart and will not use up many calories anyway.